Jim Bob sat on the examination table, legs dangling. He fumbled with his reading glasses, then placed them into his shirt pocket. He said, “Look, I’ve heard bad news before. Just tell me straight up, doc. Don’t beat around the bush.”
The doctor cleared his throat and held out the paper showing the test results, as if he needed the document for support so he could say what he must. “It’s cancer.”
Jim Bob took a deep breath. He knew it. “How … how long do I have?”
The doctor shrugged. “Best case, three months.”
“Is there anything you can do for me? Anything at all?”
“Yes. I’m going to recommend that you’re sent back to the rig.”
“Is that going to cure me?”
“No.” The doctor shook his head. “But the next three months will seem like two years.”
Yes, a little humor. Some might think very little humor.
God started time with motion—the earth rotating on its axis, orbiting the sun, creating the days and years that we gauge our existence by. Then, He set a limit on how long we’d live, so we count our age. Time is time. The life we lead, the things we do, what we plan and look forward to, or dread, seems to speed it up or make it drag by, depending upon our perspective.
Ask any oilfield hand who rotates how their time off was, and you’ll hear the same one-word answer every time. “Short.”
Days off from the rig flies by like a night asleep. The days at work feel like … well, as in the joke above. Two weeks can feel like a month, one month like three months. I know people who countdown the days and mark the calendar. I don’t know how they do it. I can write down the date a dozen times a day and not know what day it is. I block the date and days of the week from my mind.
I’ve never stepped on a rig, after any length of time away, no matter which continent or ocean, that I didn’t feel like I’d just left. I’ve never felt that way when I arrived home.
One of these days I’d like to have a miserable time off just to see if they last as long as the time at work.